Below is a list of frequently asked questions broken up into categories. All maintenance information on this website is based on Western Australian conditions, in particular, Perth. Use it as a general guide but keep in mind that care information will vary depending on your location.
Click on the question below to expand the answer.
What is a Succulent?
Succulents are a group of plants that are identified as having cells in parts of their body that retain water. Some plants have these cells in their roots, like some Euphorbias, while others have them in their stems, like Stapliads and Pachypodiums.
What is a Cactus?
Cacti are a specific type of succulent belonging to the Cactaceae family. They are identified as having areoles on their bodies. Areoles are small, fluffy, cotton-like lumps with which spines, glochids, branches and flowers sprout from. Remember, spines do not a cactus make. Some cacti don't have spines at all, like most Lophophoras, while some succulents do have spines, such as Euphorbias and Agaves.
What are Grafted Cacti?
Grafted cacti are two different species of succulents grafted together. The most common grafted cacti that you may see are brightly coloured, such as the ‘Moon Cactus' or the ‘Peanut Cactus'. These are mutant variations of a standard cactus that cannot survive on their own, and therefore are grafted on to a special rootstock. Species of grafted cacti include derivatives of Gymnocalycium mihanovichii and Lobivia silvestrii variegata.
What are Lithops?
Popularly called ‘Living Stones', Lithops are small succulents that are grey, green or brown in colour and resemble the stones that surround them. They are incredibly slow growing but amazing to watch develop nonetheless. They have remarkable chameleon qualities and will actually change colour to blend with the stones that are around them.
What does variegated mean?
Variegation is a term to describe a plant whose appearance has a variety of colours. This most commonly occurs on a plant's leaves, but can also occur on the stem and on the flowers of a plant. It is usually caused by a lack of chlorophyll in certain zones, creating a pale contrast to the plant's normal, solid colour. Variegated patterns on a plant are very spectacular and often seen as collectable treasures.
Variegation is by no means a sickness in the plant, but purely a mutation in the structure of its cells. Because it is a mutation, often seeds of the plant will not germinate into a variegated plant, and in some cases, a variegated plant can revert to its normal form.
Look for names that have the italicised term variegata or variegatum on the end of them, as this will generally mean the plant has a variegation of some type.
How can I identify my succulent?
Identifying succulents is a tricky art at best. Always use resources that are reliable; the internet is not. Books are fantastic. Start by identifying the genus – Is it a Crassula? Echeveria? Senecio? The only true way to do this is to look at the flower - Take note of the number of petals and sepels. Eventually you will see that plants that have very different foliage will actually have the same flower components. Generally this gives you a fair indication of the genus.
Don't worry too much if you find identifying too difficult. Botanists all over the world have been re-identifying species for hundreds of years, as no one can agree to which genus a plant belongs to.
Will my succulents flower every year?
While all succulents do flower eventually (some may take decades), keep in mind that some succulents have quite uninspiring flowers and are not the feature of the plant – it's the foliage of a succulent that is truly amazing – the geometry, the texture and the array of colours! With that in mind, most succulents will flower every year once they have reached maturity and provided that they are receiving adequate light and nutrition. It will usually take a year or two for a succulent to mature.
Soils, Potting Mixes and Media
What medium do I pot my succulents into?
Drainage is the most important factor when it comes to potting up succulents into containers. Always plant your succulents into a good quality cacti and succulent potting mix. For added drainage, you can add perlite to the mix. Perlite is a volcanic material that works well to lighten potting media to improve its draining quality. To use, simply add one part perlite to 8 parts potting mix. You can find perlite at selected Succulent ART retailers.
Why can't I pot my succulents into a general potting mix?
Simply put, general potting mix holds too much water for most succulents. Succulents require a well draining soil in order to remain healthy and live for a long time. Always use a good quality cacti and succulent potting mix for your succulents and cacti. For added drainage, you can add perlite to the mix. Perlite is a volcanic material that works well to lighten potting media to improve its draining quality. To use, simply add one part perlite to 8 parts potting mix. You can find perlite at selected Succulent ART retailers.
Should my succulent pots and containers have drainage holes?
Succulents generally speaking need adequate drainage and therefore require drainage holes in their pots. In most cases it is definitely worth the trouble of drilling a hole in the bottom of a container to keep your succulents looking healthy. If you are planning on keeping your potted succulent outside in the rain, always pot them up using a good quality, well draining cacti and succulent mix.
Whilst the above is the preferred growing technique, they don't necessarily have to be in pots with drainage holes. If you really want to use a container that does not have drainage holes and cannot be drilled, then there are two techniques you can use to pot up your succulents. The first is The Expanded Clay Method and can be used with glass containers. The other is The Charcoal Method. This method uses charcoal, sphagnum moss along with cacti and succulent mix. Both techniques are only for succulents that are to be kept indoors or undercover and will require a little more care when it comes to watering.
Succulents come from the desert, so why can't I plant them into sand?
Although sand has excellent draining qualities, it will not supply adequate nutrients and water to your succulents for healthy growth . If you are planning to plant your succulents into a garden that has sandy soil, simply add organic matter to the soil or use a soil improver/conditioner. A soil improver/conditioner will help to improve the soil's ability to retain water and nutrients. To use soil improvers/conditioners, simply follow the instructions on the packaging and add it to the soil. Be sure to mix it through and water in thoroughly before planting your succulents. You can find soil improvers/conditioners from your local independent plant nursery.
Will succulents grow in clay soils?
Succulents need adequate drainage in order to thrive, and so clay soils are just not an appropriate environment for succulents to grow. You can however add gypsum and coarse grain sand to help break up the clay and improve the soil's drainage. To use gypsum, simply follow the instructions on the packaging and add it to the soil. Be sure to mix it through and water in thoroughly before planting your succulents. You can find gypsum at your local independent plant nursery. Alternatively, you can build up your garden higher than ground level with a good quality, well draining soil.
What is a soil conditioner or a soil improver and how do I use it?
A soil improver/conditioner is a bagged product that you can use to add to soils in order to improve their ability to retain water and nutrients. To use soil improvers/conditioners, simply follow the instructions on the packaging and add it to the soil. Be sure to mix it through and water in thoroughly before planting your succulents. You can find soil improvers/conditioners from your local independent plant nursery.
What is perlite, where do I get it from and how do I use it?
Perlite is a volcanic material that helps to lighten potting mixes for your pots or containers. It will improve the draining qualities of your potting mix and also help to keep your potted succulents and cacti light in weight. To use perlite, simply add 1 part perlite to 8 parts succulent mix. You can find perlite at selected Succulent ART retailers.
What is sphagnum moss and how do I use it?
Sphagnum is a genus of moss that has amazing water storage abilities. Because of this ability, sphagnum moss is great to plant succulents into when your choice of container cannot hold any potting mix. A great example of this is succulent wreaths. You can usually buy sphagnum moss as a dehydrated block from your local independent plant nursery. Simply add water to rehydrate the brick as directed. Once hydrated, sphagnum moss will keep for a couple of weeks. After this you will find it will slowly decompose and become peat moss. Peat moss can be used as a great soil improver/conditioner.
What is gypsum and how much should I use?
Gypsum is a mineral that consists of hydrated calcium sulphate. It is used as a soil improver/conditioner, primarily for clay like soils. It helps break down and loosen clay in order to improve the soils drainage. To use gypsum, simply follow the instructions on the packaging to add it to the soil. Be sure to mix it through and water in thoroughly before planting into. You can find gypsum products from your local independent plant nursery.
What is a wetting agent and how do I apply it to my soil?
A wetting agent is a soil additive that improves water penetration. It usually comes in liquid form and can be found at your local independent plant nursery. To use a wetting agent, simply follow the instructions on the packaging. Add it to a watering can of water and apply to your soil. Allow it to drain and water through before planting.
What is expanded clay?
Expanded clay pebbles are lightweight balls of natural clay that have been treated with heat. They make a great medium for indoor containers that have no water drainage holes. They are highly permeable and not susceptible to rot. They come in various sizes and can be found at selected Succulent ART retailers. To find out more on how to use expanded clay with succulents, see our article The Expanded Clay Method.
How often should I water my succulents?
The general rule of thumb when it comes to watering succulents is – If the soil is dry, water it. Water more often in summer and less often (if at all) during winter. Unfortunately there is no common schedule to water your succulents by. It will all depend on what species they are, what they are planted into, where they are situated, and what time of the year it is.
How much water should I give my succulents?
Firstly, always water your succulents thoroughly. Whether they are indoors or outdoors, in gardens or in containers, your succulents will need a good, thorough watering to promote healthy roots. If you water them with too little water, the roots will remain at the top of the soil where it is damp and not grow downwards. Remember it is the duration of time between waterings , not the amount of water they receive that makes them water wise. So when you do water them, water them well.
Secondly, always allow your succulents to drain after a watering. Be sure to keep all saucers empty. Never allow a succulent to sit in water as this will promote fungal diseases and rotting.
Should I fertilise my succulents?
Fertilise your succulents every six months with a controlled release fertiliser. Apply as directed when your succulent is actively growing. A regular application of a seaweed solution will help to build thick cell walls and reduce the impact of pests and diseases on your plants.
How often do I prune my succulents?
Prune your succulents regularly to encourage new, dense growth. By doing so, you will help prevent your plants from looking elongated and leggy.
How long can I keep my succulent in this size pot?
Succulents are incredibly adaptable to their environment and will more often than not limit their own growth to the size of its surroundings. To keep a succulent small and compact, prune it regularly. If you find that your potted succulent is looking a bit sad, it may be pot bound or not getting enough nutrients out of the potting media that it currently is in. It may require re-potting into a larger pot, or the potting media in the existing pot needs to be replaced. Either will bring it back to life. Generally speaking your potted succulents will be quite fine in the one pot for an extended period of time.
Should I mulch my succulents? What kind of mulch should I use?
Mulch is fantastic at not only reflecting the sun's heat away from the soil but also at reducing the evaporation rate of the moisture in the soil. If you mulch your succulents, you will find that you can get away with watering them less often than a succulent without mulch.
Pebbles, wood chips and gravel all make excellent mulches - just be sure to keep the mulch away from the base of your plant, as this can cause rotting. Remember that mulching doesn't just apply to succulents in the garden, mulching potted succulents is just as advantageous, and it looks great too!
For more information, take a look at the article Why you should Mulch your Succulents on our blog.
How big will my succulents grow?
How big your succulents grow will depend on the species that it is, and the conditions that they are growing in. Some succulents are ground covers, some are shrubs and some are as large as trees. To find out specifically how big your succulents will grow, check the label that they come with or do some research on that particular species.
Succulents are incredibly adaptive to their environment and will more often than not limit its growth to the size of its environmental surroundings. If you plant a succulent into the ground it may grow quite large. Plant that same succulent into a pot and it will remain the size of the pot for a reasonable amount of time. To keep a succulent small and compact, prune it regularly. If you find that your potted succulent is looking a bit sad, it may have become root bound and will require a re-potting into a larger pot.
Sun Light, Aspect and Positioning
How much light do succulents need?
Succulents need adequate light in order to survive - most succulents will grow in full sun or part shade, however, be sure to check the label for specific aspect requirements, as some succulents may not tolerate the full sun and prefer part shade. Because of Australia's intense summer sun, succulents planted or placed in the full sun may need a little protection (such as a piece of shade cloth) for their first summer season until they are established.
For more information, take a look at the article How to Care for Succulents in Hot Weather on our blog.
Where should I put my succulents in winter?
Most species of succulents are fine outside during the winter period here in Western Australia. Certain species of cacti and tropical species such as Sansevieria really don't like to be kept cold and wet and may rot. Move these to an area where they will not receive any winter rain. If you get the occasional frost in your area and your succulent is in a pot, it is a good idea to put them in a warm sheltered area during winter. Against masonry walls are a good way to keep the air around your succulents warm. If the succulent is in the ground you can cover them with frost blankets if you suspect frosts will be visiting.
Where should I put my succulents in summer?
Always check your species aspect requirements on the plant label. If your succulent is able to tolerate full sun and it has been acclimatised to its environment it can be placed in the full sun. However, Succulents' seem to look healthier in our summer month's in dappled shade. Always protect your new succulent through its first summer by either having it under a piece of shade cloth or if in a pot, position it under a patio until it can acclimatise to its new environment.
For more information, take a look at the article How to Care for Succulents in Hot Weather on our blog.
Should I place my succulents indoors or outdoors?
Succulents can be grown indoors or outdoors as long as there is sufficient light for the plant to grow. Always read the succulent plant label and research your plant to see its specific requirements.
My succulents are a dark shade of green, is this healthy?
A healthy green colour usually tells us that our plant is healthy and growing. It is good to know the species and what it is suppose to look like for sometimes if it is not getting enough light they may turn green when they are suppose to be a stunning red or pink or yellow.
My succulents are turning bright red, will they survive?
Some succulents have a unique characteristic of turning stunning colours when they are stressed or cold. This is not to say that the plant is unhealthy. Some species are absolutely stunning in winter with the colours that they portray and are specifically grown for this reason. Other succulents can healthily be a shade of red whether stressed or not.
Can I move my indoor succulents outside?
If you decide to move your indoor succulents outside remember to always acclimatise them before putting them out into the full sun. Start off by putting them out under the patio and then slowly introduce them to their new environment.
Pests/Diseases and Problems
My succulent has holes, what's causing this?
Snails are not a succulent's friend. Snails and slugs love juicy foliage and can leave behind very unsightly holes. Try to find the snails and remove them to the best of your ability or leave a saucer of beer out for them to drink. They will usually drown in the ale. Coffee granules also can do the trick. If you find that this is not keeping them at bay, apply an iron based snail repellent that isn't toxic to other animals.
My Succulents have Mealybugs, how do I get rid of them?
Once a succulent is infested with mealybug it is very difficult to keep them away. If you do find mealy bug (they will look like small balls of fluff), apply a systemic pesticide. This can be found in any independent retail nursery. Follow the instructions on the packaging and be careful to not apply in the sun as it could burn the foliage of the plant. If your mealybug infestation is in the roots of your plant, remove all soil and wash the roots. Throw away the pot. Spray with the pesticide and re-pot in fresh cacti and succulent potting mix. Check regularly and isolate your plant from other plants.
My succulents have scale, what should I do?
If your succulents have scale, coat your specimen with a light spray of white oil every few weeks. You will find that once they have been killed the scale will just wipe off the foliage. Do not apply in the heat of the day or in the sun for the white oil will burn the leaves.
How can I stop snails and slugs from eating my succulents?
Try to find the snails and remove them to the best of your ability or leave a saucer of beer out for them to drink. They will usually drown in the ale. Coffee granules also can do the trick. If you find that this is not keeping them at bay, apply an iron based snail repellent that isn't toxic to other animals.
My succulents look burned, what should I do?
If your succulents are put into the summer's full sun without being acclimatised first, they may burn. Provide some shadecloth over the top of them for their first summer. If they are in a pot move them to a part shade position or under a patio for the first summer.
For more information, take a look at the article How to Care for Succulents in Hot Weather on our blog.
My succulents are rotting, can it be saved?
If your succulents are rotting, cut off the rotted area and re-pot immediately. Look to see why they have rotted. Did the pot have holes for drainage? Was the hole blocked? Was your potting mix not free draining? Was the plant buried too low in the soil? Remove all soil and check these points and then re-pot with a good quality cacti and succulent potting mix.
What can I do to protect my succulents from frost damage?
If you get the occasional frost in your area and your succulent is in a pot, it is a good idea to put them in a warm sheltered area during winter. Against masonry walls are a good way to keep the air around your succulents warm. If the succulent is in the ground you can cover them with frost blankets if you suspect frosts will be visiting.
For more information, take a look at the article Succulents and Frosts on our blog.
My succulents have aphids, how can I get rid of them?
A lot of the time aphids are only visiting temporarily. Hose them off with your hose. If they keep coming back, spray them with white oil or an environmentally friendly pesticide. Be careful not to spray in the heat of the day or in the sun, as this may burn the leaves.
How can I tell what kind of pests does my succulent have?
The best way to identify a pest is to bring a specimen or the damaged foliage into your local independent retail nursery. The experts there should be able to identify your problem.
Succulent Art Projects
How long will succulent cuttings last in my art projects?
Succulent cuttings that you use in art projects will establish roots and grow into plants within a month or so provided they are receiving adequate water, nutrients and light. If you find you simply cannot water your succulent art project thoroughly, or want to place it in an area that is deficient of light for a short time - that is perfectly fine! Simply keep it as a temporary art piece. Once you have finished with your display, take out the cuttings and plant them elsewhere!
How often should I water my succulent art projects?
It is important to make sure that your succulent art projects do not dry out completely, should you want them to last long term. It is advised that they are checked every day and watered if necessary. However, succulents can last up to several weeks without water, so you can make a temporary display if watering is impossible. Simply take the succulents out of your project when you are finished with it and plant them in the garden to grow.
What mediums can I use besides potting mix in my succulent art projects?
Sphagnum moss is a fabulous medium for most of your succulent art projects where you are unable to provide potting mix. Sphagnum moss will encourage succulent cuttings to root. If you want to plant into containers without adequate drainage, take a look at the article Potting Succulents into Containers without Drainage on our blog.
How do I prepare succulent cuttings?
To take cutting of your succulents, simple cut off the tip of a branch. Remove the lower leaves of the cutting so that you have a bare stem of approximately 1-2cm. If you are working with rosettes, the same process applies. Cut off the rosette and strip away the bottom leaves to expose a bare stem underneath. Then leave them for a day or so and plant them into your projects. That's all there is to it!
How long will it take for my cuttings to establish roots?
Cuttings can establish roots in just a few weeks depending on the time of the year. For most succulents, their active growing period is in spring/summer/autumn. In winter, it can take a little longer for roots to establish, and may take a couple of months.